Monthly Archives: August 2009

Using social media in education

Spending the last two days at the Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology Conference was a wonderful, enriching experience. As you’d expect from a conference that has a wealth of great sessions, I’ve come away invigorated and inspired to analyse, assess and further integrate additional teaching and assessment strategies – even though I was a co-presenter at the conference too!

I believe these conferences are vital. To get educators, particularly at tertiary level, to consider the way they deliver both content and assessment, really look at whether it’s working well or not and how they can improve, is a real focus of what I want to achieve both personally and professionally.

It was such a great experience to be able to focus in a workshop on how to use Twitter, in particular, in a tertiary education environment.

Step One

Before considering the technology, step back and think about your desired learning outcomes and competencies you need to deliver in your course.

Step Two

Consider how you deliver those things now. What works, what doesn’t? What learning styles are being addressed? I really think in a classroom environment we’re so used to seeing all the students enter and sit at the back of the room, and the same 5 people participate in discussions, that we’ve stopped realising that it’s problematic. Stopped looking at ways to improve it. Disconnect and think of what your ideal is.

Step Three

Think of things you can change to meet those different inadequacies. To improve your practice. Some of these may well include using social media to foster inclusive and participatory discussions, the elimination of people thinking they’re asking ‘dumb questions’ and resonance between students and educators.

Step Four

Gently lead your students into associating social media with an education environment. You’re going to be nervous in trying something new. They are going to be nervous that you’ll encroach their ‘personal’ domain. (Damn it, what’s next, friending them on Facebook?) While for many students, you accept there’s a number of people who will just not get involved, for the students, there are a number of them who are just expecting to fail. Simple. Think back to the most effective educators in your lives. These are the people who made a real impact. And typically, they’re the ones who tried something a little different. Who cared just that bit more. Why not be that educator to these students?

Step Five

When you’ve identified the areas of practice and efficiencies you’d like to change, focus on the tools that will help that happen. And then test it out. Invite students to take a journey with you. I bet that if you’re honest and let them know you’re testing something out for the first time, to try and get the content more engaging and interactive and anything else you’ve identified as problematic, most of them will willingly take the journey with you from the very start.


A. Every semester is a new beginning. You don’t have to let the legacy of the previous one linger. But you should celebrate the improvements you made.

B. Every semester allows you to learn as an educator, and be even better.

C. Every student wants to learn. They’re in your class for a reason. Some don’t know what they’re going to learn. Maybe it’s just that they can. And that’s okay.

D. Get honest: Believe you can be better. Believe alternative strategies can actually work. Recognise your teaching practice wasn’t perfect to begin with.

E. Get ready to be important to your students. An educator that they remember for the rest of their lives.

Good luck this semester!

Airlines don’t understand mums and marketing

There’s something magical about arriving at the airport with all your luggage and just two of your kids for the upcoming 28 hours of travel between countries, and reaching the check-in counter to find out every bag comes in just under the 23kg weight limit. Score.

And there’s something even more special about being handed your boarding passes and passports, turning around and seeing the 11yr old has just decked the 9yr old, and he is laying on the floor groaning loudly, holding one leg to an audience of passengers who are surely thinking ‘Oh My God, I hope they’re not sitting next to us.’

5 minutes in, 27 hours, 55 minutes to go.

How to make a flight a dreaded experience

We flew back to the US yesterday on United Airlines. Apart from the following treasured moments, we arrived safely:

a. Wholly inedible ‘food’ which really was probably the worst I’ve ever had on the long haul part, and food that’s more expensive than eating at Spago for the domestic route. (And far less tasty. Yes, I’ve eaten at Spago. Once. It was wonderful. I’m classy. I am. Stop laughing.)

b. Lack of in-seat entertainment which is very entertaining for my spoilt kids who were expecting personal movies and tv, yet had to watch tv shows like Desperate Housewives on the screens in the aisles instead. (I do remember my own childhood flights to the UK when there was just one movie for the whole flight, and the headphones never worked. I tried telling them that but they didn’t care and then they got more annoyed. They did manage very well in the end. But I digress).

c. Being checked into three seats on the US domestic part of the journey which were single seats in equidistant, very distant seats which I find very difficult to believe was accidental because we checked into the domestic flight, getting boarding passes an entire day before (see earlier part about children punching each other). There is no way there weren’t three seats together when I checked in. Mind you, I was easily trumped by a poor woman with five kids under five, who had all been seated all over the plane. That’s just completely stupid. I was momentarily tempted to tell the attendant not to bother reseating the kids, but just to reseat this other mother and myself somewhere and bring us a bottle of bubbly.

d. The lack of real assistance for a woman with four children travelling alone, whose 3yr old would NOT stop screaming for about 3 hours in the last quarter of the long haul flight. She was forced to stay in her seat with that kid because she couldn’t leave the others. I knew that. I’ve got lots of kids and have usually travelled alone with them. One kid will cry, or take a particular liking to the novelty of the plane’s bathroom and insist they have to go constantly, or need something from the one bag in the overhead bin. It’s a drama. Something simple could have made her journey easier. Such as a flight attendant saying, “what can I do to help?” instead of ignoring her.

Sidebar: I’ll never forget the Qantas flight Jed and I took while I was still nursing Charlie, about 6 years ago. The dinner came, and there was no way I could cut it up – my arm was indisposed with nursing child. I said to leave it with Jed and I’d get to it later. The Qantas attendant decided that was okay and she’d do it if I preferred, but how about if she cut the dinner up, and just left the dinner and a fork (rather than the whole tray), and then I could manage it while it was still hot? She was awesome. I remember that still. Six years later. I even remember what the flight attendant looked like. That’s good branding.

Market your flights to mums

This is a trip that costs about $US1000 a seat return – minimum. There are a couple of hundred people on the plane, who’ve all paid at least that amount. This is not a bus. People are tired, stressed and emotional. Being an attendant on these flights is hard work. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a flight attendant go beyond the most basic of service effort and everyone’s flight would have been better if that kid had stopped screaming.

On our trip over another woman was left standing in the queue with her three kids. The flight had been delayed. It was 2am. The smallest kid was asleep. She had carry-on luggage. She was really struggling. And the attendants all ignored her.

Yes, I helped her as I could, and Charlie even offered too. If an 9yr old gets it, why don’t the airlines?

When we finally boarded that flight, the ground staff said the standard “how are you?” I said “good, and you?” His reply was “tired.”

Well stuff you.

My reply? “At least you’re getting paid.” I should have added ‘and don’t have to sit on the plane for the next 16 hours with kids, and haven’t just had a 3 hours flight to get here, and then waited 9 hours for this delayed one.’

Sheesh. I wonder who’s more precious? My kids completely expecting video on demand in their seats, or these airline staff who seem to think we owe them something more than the price of a ticket.

Instead of focusing on leg room, loyalty programs and discount prices, it would be great to see an airline focus on really going beyond the call of duty to make your flight the best you’ve ever had. If an airline marketed to mothers, they’d see these women are the decision makers, who travel with their families (more ticket sales), and to be honest, it’s the simple things like offering a pair of hands when needed that will make a mother like you more.

Or maybe that’s just too hard. Too much to ask.